Big labor backs bill requiring Fed audit

Organized labor is throwing its muscle behind financial legislation requiring heightened audits of the Federal Reserve.


The AFL-CIO sent a letter to senators Friday urging them to support tougher audits. Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), signed a similar letter.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is championing an amendment to broad financial legislation now under debate that would require additional audits of the central bank and require the Fed to disclose on its website all loans and assistance made during the Wall Street bailout. Sanders circulated the labor union letters on Saturday.

The Senate amendment follows Rep. Ron Paul's (R-Texas) high-profile push in the House to audit the Fed. Paul's amendment was part of financial legislation that passed the House in December; his measure in particular received broad bipartisan support, although the final vote on the underlying bill fell on party lines.

The Fed strongly opposes to the audit requirement, arguing that it would compromise the independence of the central bank as it sets monetary policy. The Obama administration and Democratic and Republican senators have expressed concern with the measure.

"When it comes to openness vs. secrecy, Wall Street vs. Main Street, taxpayers vs. the big bankers, I am sorry to say that the White House has come down on the wrong side,” Sanders said on Saturday.  “With growing support for this amendment from both the left and right, I hope that the administration reconsiders.”

Sanders and fellow supporters argue the amendment does not interfere with monetary policy.

Sanders is circulating his amendment, cosponsored by Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), Jim Demint (R-S.C.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), David Vitter (R-La.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).